Second Skin

From high fashion to high performance: Two design teams work closely with fabricators to develop visually dynamic exterior wall systems.
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From Architectural Record
Michael Cockram

Learning Objectives:

  1. Describe the Liverpool Department Store and the Edith Green Wendell/Wyatt Federal Building facade systems.
  2. Explain how the two facade systems respond to client programming requirements and environmental conditions.
  3. Explain how the two facade systems respond to fabrication and installation constraints.
  4. Describe the role of digital tools in the design and fabrication of the two facade systems.



The facade of the recently opened Liverpool Department Store in the Mexico City suburb of Interlomas gives away very little of the functional building inside. Beneath its glowing metal cocoon lies a conventional three-floor concrete structure resting on a three-story parking deck. The edgy exterior is a departure for the Liverpool chain, with its slew of 75 stores in the area. Established in the mid-19th century, the store originally specialized in European fashion shipped through the port of Liverpool. The conservative retailer was ready to “break the mold” and establish a new direction for its store designs according to Gerardo Salinas, partner at Mexico City–based Rojkind Arquitectos.

The clients not only wanted a fresh face for the 325,000-square-foot store, they needed it quickly—it had to be designed and built in only nine months. Adding to the challenge, the footprint of the building and the form of the parking garage on which the store would rest were preordained. The semicircular site is hemmed in on three sides by a lacework of freeways. “There is no way to reach the site by foot, so the facade will be viewed mostly by car,” Salinas says. And since the client’s program precluded window openings, the architects needed a bold gesture to give the exterior a kinetic energy.

A pair of folded hands with interlacing fingers inspired the form of the facade. The idea is realized in bands of undulating horizontal ridges and valleys, creating a swirling skirt of stainless steel. The form is at once easy to comprehend and complex in its articulation. The visual impact of the building is in the subtle play of light and shadow across the folds, an effect enhanced by the surface treatments of the finish material.

Liverpool Department Store The swirling facade designed by Rojkind Arquitectos for a department store in a Mexico City suburb responds to its site, which is hemmed in by busy roadways.


Photo © Paúl Rivera /Archphoto


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Originally published in Architectural Record